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Costa Rica is beautiful. Everywhere you turn it is as if you’ve stepped into a perfect Instagram picture. Plus with several microclimates, you can have a totally different feel within just an hour of driving. Sometimes you’ll feel like you’ve entered Jurassic Park, other times it’s a beach paradise, and other places remind me of the Swiss Alps.
Despite (or probably because) of its beauty, Costa Rica is an expensive country to travel in. I’ve heard from many people who choose to explore Central America that they have chosen to skip Costa Rica because it’s just not affordable. This always makes me sad. Although it is expensive, it is possible to travel on a budget. I do it constantly. These are my tips to help you travel to Costa Rica on a tight budget without skimping on amazing experiences.
SKIP BOOKING DAY TRIPS
When you begin your trip planning you will likely find a lot of info online about fancy day trips within Costa Rica. Often times we assume that booking something online ahead of time is the best way to get a great deal. In Costa Rica that just is not true. Only the big tour companies list their companies and trips online. All of the smaller local companies depend on getting business from hotels. This means that they partner with local hotels to give discounts to hotel guests in order to keep their business running.
For example, I was in Tortuguero on the Caribbean coast once with a group of friends who wanted to go fishing. We looked online for fishing tours and couldn’t find anything less than $400 for all of us to deep-sea fishing for half a day. Instead of booking something so expensive we asked at our hotel if they had any recommendations. The hotel owner called a friend and got a fishing tour for all six of us for $100. Score!
TRAVEL OFF-PEAK TIMES
The Costa Rica rainy season runs from about May until December. During that time prices go down all over the country. I get it, you don’t want to travel if it’s going to rain all day, but it very rarely does. Instead, you can expect beautiful days until about 2 pm. The rain usually rolls in around then and lasts for a few hours. I like to get up early and begin my days around 6:30 am to get the most of the beautiful weather.
Note: For whatever reason, they forecast rain all day every day here during the rainy season. It’s as if the weathermen just take a break for several months and say it’s going to rain 24/7. It doesn’t. Don’t listen to them.
Recently my boyfriend and I traveled to La Fortuna for a relaxing weekend at the hot springs. Because tourism goes way down during this rainy time we were able to book an amazing stay at an eco-lodge that usually cost $120 a night for $22 a night. it only rained one evening during our stay.
DO AS THE LOCALS DO
If visiting Costa Rica you are probably going to want to participate in some fun adventure activities like zip-lining and taking surfing lessons. That’s great, but you can also combine that with some really cheap or free activities.
One thing we (and the locals) love about Costa Rica is that all the beaches are free and by law need to have public access. Our favorite area to explore beaches is the Guanacaste region. There are a lot of really cool hidden beaches up that way. Sometimes if you’re lucky you can get the whole place to yourself.
If you want tips on cheap local activities just ask at your hotel what they like to do in their free time. Sometimes they’ll be honest with you about the non touristy fun things in the area, but sometimes they tend to keep these things to themselves.
BRING YOUR OWN ALCOHOL
Alcohol in Costa Rica is expensive! I don’t know about you, but I love to have some nice drinks while I’m traveling in a beautiful place. We like to stock up on liquor in duty-free shops of whichever city we are coming to Costa Rica from.
You are allowed to bring up to 5 liters of alcohol into the country with you. That’s so much! It’s kind of annoying to have alcohol bottles to lug around in your luggage for your whole trip, but I think it’s worth it when you’re saving yourself a ton of money.
I usually bring a bottle of vodka with me and buy seltzer water at a local convenient store. There are tons of unique fruits to try in Costa Rica which you can throw into your drink for a fruity twist.
Do you have tips for traveling Costa Rica on a budget? We’d love to hear them in the comment section below! Read Next > 3 Authentic Places You Should Visit In Costa Rica